Christos Tsiolkas - Dead Europe (4 stars)

Brutally bleak but beautiful novel, re-issued in the wake of The Slap's international success

Christos Tsiolkas - Dead Europe


The Slap was a major breakthrough for Australian writer Christos Tsiolkas, winning the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize in 2009 and becoming an international bestseller into the bargain. In the wake of that success, Tsiolkas’ backlist is emerging in the UK for the first time, including this third novel. Dead Europe is an ambitious and skilfully executed work. A very bleak commentary on humanity, it shares The Slap’s nihilistic brutality and while lacking a little narrative drive, it compensates with real depth and resonance.

Isaac is a failing thirtysomething Greek-Australian photographer drifting around Europe, from Greece to Prague and eventually winding up in England, encountering an amoral world of hate, racism and prejudice. Intercut with that are historic sections from the Greek village of Isaac’s family, sections brimming with sinister myth and superstition. Harrowing and desolate at times, Dead Europe is not an easy read, but there is beauty in that desperation.

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